The disrespect for Ben Simmons comes in many shapes and sizes, particularly on nights where he’s expected to wear the Superman cape. When Joel Embiid went down with a right knee injury in Game 4, the casual hoops fans thought Simmons ducked the hero role.
They wanted the Philadelphia 76ers star guard to suddenly morph into a 40-point scorer. That’s not Simmons’ game, maybe it never will be. And that’s OK. His job is to play suffocating defense and facilitate by getting open looks for others. Which the 24-year-old did in the Sixers’ Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards.
Problem was, the shots weren’t falling for his teammates as the Sixers went 40-for-96 from the field (41.7%) and 12-for-38 from three (31.6%). After the tough defeat, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers went off-script to defend Simmons during a brutally honest tirade. The main message: “celebrate him.”
“But you guys keep this Ben Simmons’ narrative alive which to me is freakin’ insane, with how good this guy is and all the things he does,” Rivers said. “Ben is not a 40-point a game guy, that’s not what he does. He does other things for your team. I just don’t understand why that’s not sinking in in our city. Everybody on the team doesn’t have to be a scorer to help the team. Ben scores but he creates scoring for us, that’s what he does.”
When another reporter kept pressing the issue about Simmons’ low point totals and lack of field goals, Rivers pushed back. Enough is enough.
“If I’m Ben, at some point, I’d be tired of it. I just would,” Rivers said. “Because he’s just too good and does too many good things for this basketball team. And I keep telling you, celebrate him. Celebrate all the stuff he does well. We don’t do that enough. We keep hammering the kid. Enough.”
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Wizards Use ‘Hack-a-Ben’ in Final Minutes
Simmons finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds while being dogged by foul trouble all night. But the nay-sayers wanted to point to his poor foul shooting: 5-for-11 from the charity stripe. It prompted Wizards head coach Scott Brooks to employ a “Hack-a-Ben” strategy. Simmons went to the line four times in the final two minutes and went 3-of-6 (50%). That wasn’t why the Sixers lost the game.
“It’s more of a mental thing for him, but that’s not why we lost the game,” veteran Danny Green said. “It wasn’t missed free throws. It wasn’t the referees. It was us not executing the way we could and the way we should. And, obviously, we didn’t make shots either. I think we got some good looks but then we got outside of our identity tonight.”
Simmons said he wasn’t “upset” that Washington purposefully put him on the line. He called it a smart move, something they might continue to do in Game 5. Luckily, there is a real easy way to make it stop.
“Step up and knock ’em down, for real, that’s about it,” Simmons said. “I’m not upset, it’s basketball.”
Benching Simmons Never Crossed Rivers’ Mind
The question seems dumb on the surface but it had to be asked: Did the Sixers ever consider benching Simmons in those final two minutes?
“You want me to take Ben Simmons off the floor? I’m going to pass on that one,” Rivers said. “He’s pretty good, so I’ll pass on that suggestion.”
Remember, Tyrese Maxey was enjoying a highlight-reel night before Simmons came back in. That’s when the Wizards decided to turn to “Hack-a-Ben.” Perhaps what is getting lost in the shuffle was the fact that Simmons actually did what he was supposed to do, at least “analytically.”
“Analytically, if you split all these free throws, offensively you would take a point per possession so I have no issue with that,” Rivers said. “Obviously, I would love him to make both, but it didn’t change the game at all for us. So I was fine with it.”
Then Rivers sent one more salvo to the Philly media. If you want the head coach to take Simmons out for all 48 minutes, let him know. He’s not removing him for the final two minutes, though.
“With Ben, we’re going to keep him on the floor,” Rivers said. “Unless you guys want us to bench him for the whole game. If anybody wants us to do that, let me know, and then I’ll know you don’t know basketball.”